UFC 110 Notebook: Aussie Closes on Title Contention

By Chris Postupalski Feb 22, 2010
SYDNEY, Australia -- George Sotiropoulos put on the best performance of his career against his toughest opponent to date, Joe Stevenson, at UFC 110 “Nogueira vs. Velasquez” on Saturday at the Acer Arena. Still, he does not believe he deserves of a title shot yet.

“As long as I perform, the fights will come,” Sotiropoulos said, having defeated Stevenson by unanimous decision in posting his fifth victory in as many fights under the UFC banner.

The Australian seems prepared to wait and see whom UFC matchmaker Joe Silva puts in front of him. Sotiropoulos, a native of Geelong in Victoria, Australia, would love to compete in Melbourne, another Australian city on the UFC’s radar. UFC President Dana White affirmed that Sotiropoulos put himself “in the mix” at 155 pounds with his dominating performance over Stevenson. Time will tell if the 32-year-old Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt has emerged as a legitimate contender for lightweight champion B.J. Penn, who has looked as strong as ever in his last two outings.

“I think tonight was a huge step for him,” White said. “This is a guy who came off ‘The Ultimate Fighter,’ and to go in there and face competition like Joe Stevenson and do what he did to Joe Stevenson tonight … it’s huge and very promising for his future. If he continues at the pace he’s on now, I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s in a title fight within the next year.”

Asked about the opportunity to compete in front more than 17,000 fans in his homeland, Sotiropoulos called it “the best feeling in the world.”

Bonnar, Soszynski Welcome Rematch

Not long after their preliminary fight ended in controversy, talk had already turned to a possible rematch between Stephan Bonnar and Krzysztof Soszynski.

Bonnar and Soszynski had finished contesting two close fought hard rounds, when an accidental clash of heads opened up a gash on the American’s forehead. After the cage-side doctor took a closer look, Australian referee John Sharp, working his first UFC event, incorrectly awarded the fight to Soszynski, as he failed to see the inadvertent head butt that caused the cut.

A successful appeal to the New South Wales Sports Combat Authority could result in the decision being overturned, depending on the judges’ scorecards after round two.

“It was a head butt,” Bonnar said.

Both fighters seemed open to a rematch.

“If the UFC wants it and fans want it,” Soszynski said, “I think we should finish what we started.”

‘Cro Cop’ Discusses New Camp

Mirko ‘Cro Cop’ Filipovic knew he had to get it right against Anthony Perosh, a late replacement for his original opponent, Ben Rothwell. To that end, he set up his pre-fight training camp in Holland, where elite training partners were ready, willing and able to push him every day.

“I changed the way I train,” said Filipovic, a technical knockout winner over Perosh. “I always underestimate so many things even though I am an experienced fighter.”

Filipovic claims he approached his latest Octagon appearance in the correct fashion, arriving in Australia with enough time to recover from jet lag and make sure he was at full strength come fight time. However, there was a significant wrench thrown into his plans when Rothwell was forced to withdraw with a stomach virus mere days before the event.

“I was training for Rothwell,” Filipovic said, “but, in the end, I was lucky to get a fight.”

White wants to make the Rothwell-Filipovic matchup happen in the near future. Filipovic, the 2006 Pride open weight grand prix winner, claims his competitive fire still burns and that he welcomes the challenge from young fighters rising through the heavyweight division.

White Eyes Expansion

With a successful first Australian show under its belt, the UFC turned its attention towards expanding the brand Down Under.

“We will be back,” White said, “and we’ll be looking at Melbourne.”

The UFC frontman was impressed with the education level of the crowd, as fans often applauded when fights hit the ground. The promotion chose free-to-air station One HD as its broadcast partner for the event within Australia in an effort to maximize local exposure. The UFC may also look to bring “The Ultimate Fighter” reality series to Australia, with an all-Australian season said to be under consideration.

“When you expose the product,” White said, “people will get into it.”
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